Our brains and bodies contain billions of highly specialised neurons [nerve cells] that gather and transmit electrochemical signals to their neighbours and further afield. Many, like this rat spinal neuron grown in the lab, project an intricate network of branching, wire-like tendrils that enable neurons to ‘talk’ to their neighbours and form the complex networks that control much of our physiology and behaviour. Their talkative tendrils are shaped by structural proteins, such as actin and tubulin, which form their internal scaffolding. Scientists have noted that these proteins are regularly found along with another called Hsp27 (stained green). They wonder if Hsp27 may play some role in tendril production and growth. If so, therapies that target Hsp27 could one day help damaged neurons regrow.
Written by Helen Pilcher
BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC London Institute of Medical Sciences (the new name for the MRC Clinical Sciences Centre) the website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biomedicine. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.